Stuttgart. What is this button in the centre console for? How can I link my mobile phone with my car? What is "Sport+"? A host of questions posed by customers about the various displays, functions and controls of their vehicle can now be answered by the virtual assistant "Ask Mercedes". The new service makes use of artificial intelligence (AI) and combines a chatbot with augmented reality functions: questions can be typed in on a smartphone screen or asked using voice recognition. Furthermore, in the new E- and S-Class, controls and displays can be scanned using a smartphone camera. Once the objects have been visually identified, an explanation of the corresponding function is provided.
At any time, anywhere and via a variety of channels: "Ask Mercedes" takes customer interaction to a new level. The free app combines a chatbot (speech-based dialogue system; the term is composed of the words "to chat" and "bot"/"robot") with augmented reality (technology to supplement a camera image with computer-generated content).
With the intelligent virtual assistant, customers can get an answer in real time to their questions about operating their new vehicle. Owners of a new E- or S-Class can additionally get to know their car in a fun way: a smartphone camera can be used to discover the interior, and the system is able to explain the displayed functions to the customer. And for those who want to get to know their vehicle at their own leisure, "Ask Mercedes" can also be used at home via social media (Facebook Messenger) or voice assistants (Google Home, Amazon Echo).
"We are creating a personalised customer experience that goes well beyond the vehicle. With innovative services such as 'Ask Mercedes', we are further expanding our digital ecosystem", says Britta Seeger, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Sales.
Chatbot: answers to all those car questions
With the "Ask Mercedes" app, customers can engage in dialogue with Mercedes and get a response immediately. The chatbot understands naturally spoken language and questions formulated in a wide variety of ways. "How can I drive more economically?" is understood just as easily as "What is DYNAMIC SELECT?", for example. But even questions about the Mercedes-Benz brand and the Daimler company, such as "Who is actually the head of Mercedes?", are also answered.
In a variety of locations – from the inner city of London, to Pretoria in South Africa and the Customer Center in Sindelfingen – the developers of Ask Mercedes posed questions to customers and interested parties in advance, and as such collected several thousand practical questions on vehicle operation. It has therefore been possible to adapt the content optimally to the different interests and levels of knowledge of customers. Images and videos are often incorporated into the text. In addition, there are links to the Owner's Manual and YouTube.
Augmented reality: understanding all vehicle functions very simply
In the new E- or S-Class, it is possible to get to know the vehicle functions even better thanks to the app's augmented reality function. If a smartphone is aimed at the dashboard, steering wheel or centre console, numbers are automatically superimposed onto the controls and displays shown in the camera image. If the user then clicks or taps on a number, information is provided on the corresponding item. For easier navigation, a menu bar is additionally incorporated at the bottom of the smartphone display, enabling one-handed operation and labelling the displayed functions.
Owner's Manual 3.0: gradual expansion envisaged
"Ask Mercedes" is initially being launched in 2017 in English in South Africa and Malaysia. A version of the app limited to augmented reality functions will also be launched online at the same time in the USA. At the start of 2018 it is scheduled to be introduced in India and Hong Kong. In addition, a version in German will also follow in 2018.
"Ask Mercedes" is expected to be gradually expanded in the coming months: support for further vehicle models, content and communication channels is envisaged.